Friday, September 16, 2011
END OF THE CENTURY: THE STORY OF THE RAMONES
So I finally got around to watching Jim Fields and Michael Gramaglia's acclaimed 2003 Ramones documentary End of the Century. And, like all great rock 'n roll bands, the Ramones were a gang of dysfunctional, trailblazing cowboys functioning at the highest level. Their story's got a bit of everything: love, betrayal, drugs, booze, tragedy and, finally, redemption (albeit posthumously)...
"Like white heat. You couldn't put a cigarette paper between one tune ending and the next beginning" - Joe Strummer.
Everyone had a role to play in the Ramones. Johnny was the Nazi. The rule-man. The right wing disciplinarian. The "glue" that held them all together. It was Johnny's band and he ruled with an iron fist, from creating and enforcing their iconic "uniforms" to hitting Dee Dee in the head backstage if he'd had a bad show.
Joey was the eternal optimist. The genuine weirdo. The heart of the band. Dee Dee was the band's chief songwriter and talisman. Their rascal. Tommy was the orchestrator (at first). And Marky kept the ship from sinking - even though he sank himself a few times.
And let's not forget Arturo Vega, the New York artist that came up with the band's logo and put a roof over their heads early on.
The saddest part of the story is the rift that developed between Johnny and Joey, who didn't speak to each other for nearly 20 years and never got to make up - not that Johnny ever wanted to. And the idea that, just before he died, Joey refused to let doctors put tubes down his throat because he didn't want them to damage his vocal chords is heartbreaking.
Joey literally worked himself to death for the Ramones, but when they were inducted into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame, Dee Dee, Johnny and Marky didn't even mention his name. Dee Dee's speech is a bad joke you can write off to heroin addiction and Johnny says, "God bless America and God bless President Bush", when he should have said, "God bless Joey Ramone!"
Still, it's an interesting and candid look at one of rock 'n rolls greatest, hardest working and most under appreciated bands. Ramones forever...